I didn’t get to post Monday and Random Tuesday was all about the contest, which means my posting schedule is hosed for the week. Since variety is the spice of life and all that, I’m defenestrating the schedule until next week. That means you never know what you’ll find here for the next three days, but I will say this: there’s gonna be some nearly nekkid men on here by Friday.
Anyway, I woke up this morning and put on my ranty-pants, so I’ve got to handle that first. Rejections. There are a lot of schools of thought as to how a writer should deal with them. Some people hide them or immediately throw them away. Some people keep a scrapbook, some people pin them on the wall and throw darts at them. Some people post them on the internet and others keep a running tally of how many they receive. Me, I think it’s important to stay positive and move on. So that person didn’t get your work; someone else will, unless it’s really, heinously bad. I cling to the mantra of that’s one person’s opinion. That mindset helps a lot.
So really, what I want to talk about at this point is the feedback that comes along with a rejection from an agent or editor. Some writers, usually folks just starting out, get all riled up because this person doesn’t send specific feedback, telling her why this precious wondrous gem got rejected. First of all, that’s not in the job description. These people are industry professionals and they don’t get paid to crit. It’s really a yes / no decision. I get that, and I’m perfectly happy with a rejection that just says, “No,” or “Not right for me at this time.”
My gripe is this: rejections with monumentally unhelpful feedback. Like “I couldn’t connect with the characters,” or “The premise was engaging, but ultimately the plot seemed too familiar.” Okay, what? That’s publisher-doublespeak that means, “No.” At the base of it, it simply means no, and the writer can’t do anything with that “feedback” to try and improve her book. She can only drive herself crazy wondering what the hell it means.
The coldest rejection I ever got from an agent, after she’d requested the full was, “I will not be offering you representation at this time.” That’s it, a one line email, maybe a month after I sent the full. I got frostbite from that email, dudes, but it got the job done and I didn’t waste time fretting over it. I actually preferred that one to the touchy-feely note from another agent explaining that she’d been so excited about my book and about the possibility of working with me, but “as it turns out…” See, it’s still a no. All the sugar plums and fairy dust you sprinkle on it doesn’t make it a yes. And yes, the touchy-feely email offered some of that fortune cookie feedback, where you need to be Confucius to decipher it.
Now I know a lot of soft-skinned writers like the touchy-feely feedback, even when it doesn’t actually mean anything because that offers some personal contact, but I prefer a simple rejection. If the person has time to write something I can use, like, “The heroine’s motivation for sheltering a strange man at the start of chapter two needs work,” then I’m all for that. I can do something with that. Otherwise, just tell me no. I’m not Confucius.